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Naming Names – At $75k A Pop

Salon has a super-interesting article on the business of naming companies. It’s long and detailed with lots of quotes from main players in the industry. It’s a huge industry and people are charging a lot of money to help companies find that just right name for their business. At the end of the day they’re going to need a url.  You can find the article here: The Name Game by Ruth Shalit, but I want to share a few quotes to whet your appetite.

…eventually cost the client more than $1 million and involve up to 40 Landor executives around the globe. The first step was to interview key executives at the massive new entity, then known only by its code name of NewCo. After four months of this sort of intensive brand therapy, the group settled upon the only name capable of conveying such protean emotions — “Agilent.”

“The most namby-pamby, phonetically weak, light-in-its-shoes name in the entire history of naming,” declared Rick Bragdon, president of the naming firm Idiom. “It’s like a parody of a Landor name. It’s insipid. It’s ineptly rendered … It ought to be taken out back and shot.

“Steve Manning of A Hundred Monkeys, a San Francisco naming firm, was also appalled. “What a crummy name,” he says. “It sounds like a committee name. ‘Who’s your competition?’ ‘Lucent.’ ‘Well, we want to play off Lucent — only we’re agile. I mean, if you wanted a name like that, I could come up with that kind of name in about four seconds.”

Hey, those guys sound like they’ve been hanging out on the domain forums!
The Idiom url is actually idiomnaming.com! Idiom branding examples here: http://www.idiomnaming.com/credentials.html. A domainer at heart? Look where their hompage Idiom Naming Survey takes you: http://www.hugedomains.com HugeDomains.com, there’s a name for you. But where’s the survey?
A Hundred Monkeys at least owns their own domain and I do like a lot of these product names. A lot of their brand names leave everything up to the imagination, as far as what the company does, but as I’m beginning to understand, that’s often considered not a bad thing. I will definitely be checking out their website further. I want to know what people pay $65k for, and that’s before the domain name! (Well a few of the companies I checked had the domain name, but most were parked! What is this telling me?)

“I used to work by writing names on individual pieces of paper and sticking them up on the wall,” says Steve Manning of A Hundred Monkeys. “I don’t do that anymore.” The reason? “People were walking around the room with cameras, taking pictures of my names,” Manning says blearily. “It got a little creepy. I mean, this is Silicon Valley. People move around a lot … If they liked one of my names, they might be drawn to register it as a URL. And that would be very bad. Because, you know, I own those names.”

The monkeys don’t come cheap. “We charge $65,000 per name,” says Altman. “But we work with you for a month. And for that month, we are basically yours. It’s actually a much lower price point than many of our competitors.”

Consider Luxon Cara’s $70,000 “identity program” for US Air. The airline “wanted to be repositioned and perceived as a major U.S. airline…
“No, no,” Lagow says. “It’s been changed to US Airways.” “That’s it?” I asked.

If $70,000 seems like a hefty price for a word fragment, consider the chutzpah of Ira Bachrach. Several years ago, he charged Infiniti $75,000 for a single letter. Or, to be fair, two letters…
One model became the Infiniti J30, another the Q45.

Great article. I’m keeping a copy of it on my computer for the next time someone starts arguing about a $xxx price for what I know is a great domain name.

Homework:
Could a New Name Fix a Company?
From Inc, 1984! Name-Calling Feature on Ira Bachrach and Name Lab.
How Did The Blackberry Get Its Name
Feature on Lexicon (url Lexicon-Branding.com A hyphen! They do own the non-hyphenated).
From Wired: How do they come up with names like Pentium and AirTouch?

See also:
The Name Inspector
The Naming Group
Good Domain Names Grow Scarce Inc. Magazine

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